My first real job hunt seemed like it lasted an eternity. In reality, it lasted seven months. I applied to every job I could find, spending hours tweaking my resume, trolling the web for postings and following up with recruiters. I went on countless interviews, hoping each time this was it, only to never hear from them again. Searching for a job was exhausting, disheartening and difficult. I wanted so badly to start my career, and the snail’s pace at which it was proceeding made it difficult not to feel downtrodden at times.
I eventually found a great job. I’ve moved up and now oversee recruitment and hiring for my team. Looking back at my experience, and talking with friends, career counselors and peers, I realize I was searching blindly during that first hunt. I didn’t necessarily need to work harder, but I could have searched smarter.
We’re part of the generation of DIY careers. We’re millennial women who don’t wait for the perfect opportunity—we go out and create it ourselves. The incredible blogosphere of entrepreneurs, designers, programmers, business owners, writers and artists has proven that. And the job hunt is no different.
So today we’re talking alternatives. Think of it as the anti job search: creative tips and tricks that focus less on applying everywhere and anywhere, and more on helping you hone your search to get (or create) the career you actually want.
Flip it & reverse it
Rather than focusing on entry-level jobs, work backwards. Identify individuals whose careers you admire or want to emulate. What did they do to get there? What were some of their first jobs? Maybe there is a professional association or company you hadn’t thought of. Examining others’ career paths can jumpstart ideas of where you should look.
Can’t afford to make a career switch yet? Not sure it’s the right fit? Try freelance opportunities on the side. It’s a great way to make some extra money and get more experience until you’re ready to make the big leap. You can start small, offering your services to friends and family until you build up a portfolio to take on larger clients.
Boost your resume, DIY style
Paid professional experience isn’t the only factor that can propel your resume to the top. Volunteer for your favorite organization, attend workshops or teach yourself a new skill. There are thousands of budget-friendly training courses taught by industry professionals—Google Analytics Academy, Udemy, Coursera, Codecademy, Lynda, Atly and Skillshare just to name a few.
Go straight to the source
Don’t wait for your dream company to post an opening. Since many promote from within or hire referrals, you could miss opportunities you didn’t even know existed. Contact the company directly to set up an informational interview or inquire about opportunities. Send your resume to Human Resources so they have it on file. Be persistent. Follow up every few months to see if anything opens up.
Make sure your application correlates to the position you want. Are you interested in both marketing and writing positions? Draft two versions of your resume geared towards each industry and always create a new cover letter for every position.
Learn, learn, learn
Though you may have finished school, your education never stops. Attend speaking events, read voraciously, take an online class. Continue to improve and challenge yourself every day.
Be a shadow
Do you admire a certain professional? Covet their job? Contact your work crush and offer to buy them coffee in exchange for a meet and greet. Pick their brain for their experience, background, tips and advice. Not only will you gain new insights, it’s a great networking opportunity. The next time a job is available in their company, you may just be the first name on their lips.
Create a brand
Establish a presence online. Create a website, add samples of your work and pump up your LinkedIn profile. Make sure your other social media profiles are either squeaky clean or private—if you wouldn’t show your grandmother, it’s probably not appropriate in the employment market.
The most basic tip of the bunch, it is nonetheless very effective. Don’t keep your job hunting journey to yourself. Tell friends and family what you’re looking for. Have a two minute elevator pitch prepared in case you strike up conversation in a coffee shop. It sounds trite, but you never know who knows who. Six degrees of separation later, you might just find out about an opening you’d never hear of otherwise.
Today’s job market is fluid, fast-paced and unpredictable. Entire career sectors (hello social media) have emerged that never existed before. While it can be unnerving, this new normal also allows an unprecedented amount of creativity and freedom, leaving the power in your hands to create the career you want!
This post is by Erin Doherty and was originally published on Career Contessa.